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Griner Describes Russian Detention on Flight Home

National

Brittney Griner on the plane back to Texas | Image by The New York Times

WNBA star Brittney Griner spent about 12 hours of her 18-hour flight to the U.S. from Russia talking with others on the plane, according to Roger Carstens, the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, who helped secure the basketball star’s release and was on the flight. 

“I have been in prison for 10 months now, listening to Russian. I want to talk,” Griner said, according to Carstens.

She then asked Carstens, referring to others on the plane: “But, first of all, who are these guys?”

“And she moved right past me and went to every member on that crew, looked them in the eyes, shook their hands and asked about them, got their names, making a personal connection with them,” Carstens said in an interview on CNN. “It was really amazing.”

The two-time Olympic gold medalist, Baylor national champion and Phoenix Mercury star spoke with those on the plane about her time in the Russian penal colony and her months in captivity, Carstens said, declining to go into specific details.

“I was left with the impression this is an intelligent, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, a patriotic person,” Carstens said. “But above all, authentic. I hate the fact that I had to meet her in this manner, but I actually felt blessed having had a chance to get to know her.”

Griner, who played pro basketball in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after Russian authorities determined she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil. The U.S. State Department declared Griner “wrongfully detained,” a designation Russia rejected.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. had secured Griner’s release in a prisoner exchange for convicted notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Bout had been serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that U.S officials said were to be used against Americans.

Griner is still at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where she arrived last week, with no immediate plans to leave, her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas told ESPN.

Though Griner is undergoing an extensive medical and mental evaluation at the base, Carstens said she appeared “full of energy, looked fantastic.”

On Sunday, Griner picked up a basketball for the first time in nearly 10 months for a light workout, with her first act on the court being a dunk, her agent said. 

Despite the light workout, the 32-year-old Griner is unsure when she will be ready or if she plans to return to her WNBA career with the Phoenix Mercury, according to Colas. 

“If she wants to play, it will be for her to share. She has the holidays to rest and decide what’s next without any pressure,” Colas said. “She’s doing really, really well. She seems to have endured this in pretty incredible ways.”

Since her return, Griner has not spoken publicly but should issue a statement sometime “this week,” Colas added.

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Mandy
Mandy
1 month ago

She broke the law and got a get of jail for free card. What about all the military that were wrongfully imprisoned? Is Joe Biden going to get them out as well? What about this arms dealer is he going to hurt Americans? Obviously, Joe Biden is working on his own personal agenda. Why did he not get the other guy out? He was working the deal for Brittany and someone else. If an American goes to jail overseas, will Joe Biden save them?

Joe Biden has done NOTHING for Americans.

Holly Niehaus
Holly Niehaus
Reply to  Mandy
1 month ago

For one, Paul W has a shady past of an unsavory discharge of larceny. 2. He was charged with espionage – Russians consider a much higher crime. 3- Trump could have gotten him out. 4. Grindr was only option for trade. She was set up. Many more have used and got much lesser sentences!

Michelle
Michelle
Reply to  Holly Niehaus
1 month ago

Thank you!!! We’ll said, I know it’s still confusing to some for whatever reason!!

Kmf
Kmf
Reply to  Mandy
1 month ago

You are wrong on numerous points. First of all Grienger was stopped for having a small amount of medical Marijuana Rx’d by her physician. Less than a gram in 1 vape cartridge. That is not ‘trafficking’. I have friends who have been Rx’D medical Marijuana gor cancer- would you call them outlaws & say they need to go to jail? Her lawyer was advised to hace her plead guilty & they would lessen charges/she wouldnt have to go to prison. Russiz lied. Secondly, Russia was only offering Greiner in a swap, swap one or none. There were no choices. And finally, Whelan is also a citizen of UK, Ireland & canada…what aren’t those countries working yo get him out. Whelan was detained by Russia while Trumo was president, & Trump didn’t care enough yo bring Whelan home. Once again, Biden has to clean up Trump’s messes (covid pandemic, lack of vaccine & ppe, broken supply chain, etc). Whelan was dishonorable discharged from marines, yet I would never say to leave any American behind in Russia. But Trump did…

Thunder
Thunder
Reply to  Mandy
1 month ago

U can not be serious right now breaking the law u must not no that Vapor are not illegal they used her to get what they wanted and they could have him for her. She did nothing wrong and I’m pretty sure that the president would try to get back any Americans if he could if they are innocent.

Matt
Matt
Reply to  Thunder
1 month ago

Vapes are not illegal? I suppose you are an expert on Russian law?

Karen Copeland
Karen Copeland
Reply to  Mandy
1 month ago

The last president had a chance to get Paul back but declined. Paul released statement saying it was not an option to free him, he is glad BG is home.

Ms Sunshine
Ms Sunshine
Reply to  Mandy
1 month ago

Stay positive, this whole world is going thru messed up times